Monday, 28 October 2013


I thought I knew all there was to know about pizza.  After all, I can make really good pizza, and I have been making it for years. (The secret to good pizza is in the dough.  If you have a good dough, chances are you'll have a good pizza). But, surprise, I found out something new about pizza.  here exists a topping I didn't know of. No, it's not ham and pineapple. It's Quatro stagione, or four seasons pizza.

Marinated artichokes for springtime...

Tomato slices and fresh mozzarella for summer.  Sliced basil goes on after the pizza comes out of the oven.  I enjoyed slicing the basil, it gave off such a wonderful aroma...

Autumn, represented by sauteed mushrooms and onions...

Ham, for winter. Or, if you prefer to have no meat on your pizza, choose olives and rosemary as a winter topping. Perhaps some of those pepperoncini peppers or some capers ...  

Make the pizza.  Dough, sauce, cheese. Visually divide the pizza into four sections, and top each section accordingly.  The toppings can vary, as long as each section they are placed on represents one of the four seasons.

Bake it, and enjoy it.  Whoever thought of the concept of a four seasons pizza is a certified genius as far as I am concerned. Scrumptious. A wonderful excuse for having a multi-topping pizza. Except, this way, the toppings are not piled one on top of the other, which truthfully, I find unappetizing. Here, the toppings are artfully arranged on the pizza, giving it an air of sophistication.   And I like sophistication. That's why I really liked reading the thriller A Very Private Gentleman, (1990), written by Martin Booth. As far as thrillers go, it reeks of sophistication. As do I. 

This is my contribution to Novel Food, the literary-culinary event hosted by Simona from Briciole. Read it, and then cook something that the reading has inspired you to prepare.  For this edition of Novel Food I enjoyed reading A Very Private Gentleman.  

In one of my favourite chapters, the main character takes his paramour to an out of the way restaurant where the two enjoy a bottle of wine and a "pizza quatro stagione." I loved the description of the event so very much that I wanted to be a patron at the very same countryside restaurant, ordering along with the protagonists. 

a VERY private gentleman

This is a thinking person's thriller, with an unforgettable protagonist. He is Signor Farfalla, thus called by the locals of the small town where he lives. He is an artist who paints rare butterflies. Or so he pretends. That's his cover.  In actuality, Signor Farfalla leads a life so secretive that even we, the readers, don't know his real name or nationality. He is well educated though, a man of fine tastes. He knows how to appreciate nature, art, architecture, good food and wine, good music and books, and he loves good company. He always moves from place to place, sometimes because of work, sometimes to evade capture. His real work is done in secret: he is a gunsmith who crafts made-to-order weapons. They carry a very high price tag because they are used for high level assassinations. And Signor Farfalla feels that he has helped to shape history. However, he is getting old and would like to retire. When we meet him, he is promising that he's working on his last commission. He likes the small Italian town where he's taken up residence, and he would like to settle there, in the company of Clara, a young student who moonlights as a prostitute in order to make ends meet. Unfortunately, just as Signor Farfalla makes up his mind to settle down, he becomes aware that someone is after him. And so the cat and mouse game begins... Booth's writing is clear, intelligent, tense and thought provoking. 

A Very Private Gentleman is a first rate psychological thriller, a book that is hard to put down. 

The movie The American (2010), staring and produced by George Clooney, was based on this novel. The script has some significant differences from the novel, but both movie and book are first rate. With the release of the movie, the novel was republished under the same title as the movie. Therefore, a very private gentleman was forced to become an American. I don't think Martin Booth (who died in 2004), would have liked this change; he didn't give his character a nationality, and I enjoyed trying to guess where Signor Farfalla could have come from.  

And yes, I find George Clooney aesthetically pleasing.